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Mad for maps
Rik Roots
Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 2:44 PM
Joined: 5/2/2011
Posts: 14


I have a confession: when I pick up a new book I tend to flick through the pages to see if there's a map - and I'm much more likely to buy the book if it comes with a map.

Am I the only one who likes maps? What do people most want to see in a fantasy map? Do you have any favourite maps?

I also draw maps - it's a great way to waste time:

http://www.rikweb.co.uk/kalieda/maps/texts/big-ewlah.php


Alex Hollingshead
Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 4:24 PM
Joined: 5/2/2011
Posts: 61


I'm basically the exact opposite, honestly. If I see a map, I cringe a little inside. I've read too many stories where any travel is suddenly rendered unreadable without me flipping back to the map. And if the author does write those scenes well, then I tend to just look at the map once, admire the art, and likely never look at it again. Unless it is dreadfully incompetent (in terms of geographic competence, at least), then I might get a good laugh out of it.

As a writer, I have drawn maps for personal use a couple of times. I would rather not have them included in the novel, but for personal reference, they can be handy. Or, as you said, a good way to procrastinate. A rough sketch that just gets across what I need to know, http://i52.tinypic.com/wi8utu.png - and yeah, I also am not much of an artist, so if I ever did need a map in my story for whatever reason, that's being done by a professional.

My favorite map is the map of Europe from Scott Westerfeld's "Leviathan", as seen here http://scottwesterfeld.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/LeviathanGrandMapBIG.jpg
stephmcgee
Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 4:37 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245


I can't say that I pay attention to maps in my fantasy books. I might look at it before I start reading as a way of orienting myself before diving in to the book.

In my writing, I definitely work out a map for myself if it's needed. (I've written some contemporary stuff so the map isn't always needed as I can use Google maps or Google Earth.) I find my maps to often times be invaluable to my writing when I'm writing fantasy.
RJBlain
Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 4:43 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 224


I like looking at the maps -- and I enjoy drawing them. I do get upset if I HAVE to refer to the map to understand where everything is at in the world. :/
Danielle Bowers
Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 4:57 PM
Joined: 3/16/2011
Posts: 280


I do like it if I'm reading a book that location jumps often, like Tolkien's books. Like in Fellowship of the Ring when Gandalf present's Frodo with their options for going through/around/over the mountains.

There is only one story I've had to use world building skills on and since my cartography skills would make a cat laugh, I will dig up maps from 200+ years ago. The maps from that time period are very detailed and are great for ideas of how things should be laid out.
Rachel Russell
Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 5:06 PM
Joined: 4/29/2011
Posts: 27


I like maps. I enjoy admiring the art, and I find it useful if there is a location jump. Like already mentioned, I do get pretty miffed if I have to continually check the map to just understand where the heck the characters are riding off toward.
Rik Roots
Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 5:16 PM
Joined: 5/2/2011
Posts: 14


Maybe I came across as a little too fanboyish? I definitely agree that the map has to be secondary to the story, and that good fantasy writers can draw stunning maps using words and phrases alone.

I didn't particularly like the maps used for George Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" books - they seemed a little too simple/generic to me. But I love what the TV series people have done with those maps in the introductions to each episode - they really help me pinpoint where the action I'm about to see is taking place.
Paroma
Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 5:29 PM
Joined: 5/2/2011
Posts: 14


I LOVE maps! My favourite ones are all epic fantasy maps! Something about a whole made up continent\ country with mountains, deserts, cities, forts, etc. thrills me!
I make maps in my Paint and they range from awful to pretty neat- but Rik Roots, yours is awesome! The only thing it lacks is a legend. You can't really get involved in a map if you know nothing about the demarcations on it. A back story would be great too. But, it is beautiful!

Here's one I am particularly proud of and is connected to one of the stories I put up here- Rusha's Blade.
http://apromontoryfirst.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/the-continent-of-luprath2.jpg


Revenant
Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 5:42 PM
Rik, what software / program did you use to make the map linked in the original post? I've really been looking to make my map digital as I have a number of drawn out maps that i work with now. I think you should have a map... Not out of necessity, not because a reader can't make it through the book without using it, but because there is a population of fantasy readers that love to have them. I haven't done enough geographical research to know if my map works well enough yet, but I will before I finish my novel. I love a good map and I agree it can be a fun way to waste some time
stephmcgee
Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 6:47 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245


Rik, we're genre writers. We all have a little fanboy/girl inside us; some just let it play more often.

I have to admit that I never referenced the maps in Tolkien's books, but I loved what they did with them in the films.
Marshall R Maresca
Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 6:50 PM
Joined: 3/7/2011
Posts: 56


Rik, first off, that really is fantastic work on your map. Did you use a specific program for mapmaking, or is that just the result of dedication and skill?

I do love doing mapwork as well. It is a good way to be creatively busy when I'm blocked on the actual writing.
Rik Roots
Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 7:15 PM
Joined: 5/2/2011
Posts: 14


Hey, thanks to everyone for saying nice things about my map. I did it using the Gimp - http://www.gimp.org/ - I used to have a tutorial online somewhere about how I made it, but that website seems to have disappeared.

If you want to see some stunning mapwork, I always suggest popping over to see what the folks over at the Cartographer's Guild - http://www.cartographersguild.com/ - have been doing. Caution: some of their maps will blow your mind!
ProducerPaul
Posted: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 9:08 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 1


Ted, you might want to try Jeff Preston. He does great maps and I believe his rates are pretty reasonable. You can find his website at team-preston.com

Hopefully he can help you with your map. Good luck.
RJBlain
Posted: Thursday, May 5, 2011 5:47 AM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 224


Here is one of my maps

http://www.rjblain.com/World.jpg

They're very fun, I need to do some more, working on a project map for one of my friend's worlds, but I haven't had enough time to finish it.
Alexander Hollins
Posted: Thursday, May 5, 2011 3:21 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 416


I like reading maps for the little jokes and odd regional names.
Mike Perkins
Posted: Friday, May 6, 2011 4:54 AM
Joined: 4/29/2011
Posts: 8


I like maps but many of them in books are poorly done. But, I also like maps outside of books and have a kind of fascination with them, and I think being a history undergraduate either reinforced or helped create that inclination.

Now I have started thinking about the poor ones. I think the poor ones have issues with including information that the user can read and I am easily overwhelmed by a map if there is too much information in it. Also, and this is odd, I make my decision about the maps BEFORE I read the book which is probably a big mistake.

Anyway, this is a fun discussion.
Shelley Schanfield
Posted: Friday, May 6, 2011 8:53 AM
Joined: 5/5/2011
Posts: 4


I love maps and find them very useful. The maps of Orm's voyages in The Long Ships are a great example how to do it well in hisorical fiction.

I will use a map for my book, which is an historical fantasy based on the lives of several women who lived at the same time as the Buddha. What do people think: is it best to try to make the map geographically as correct as possible, or since it's fantasy anyway would it matter if I changed names of places, rivers, etc.?
Rik Roots
Posted: Friday, May 6, 2011 10:18 AM
Joined: 5/2/2011
Posts: 14


@shelley - while part of me wails at the thought of geographical inaccuracy, I think the most important job of any map is to give the map reader the information they need to navigate a route and complete the journey. In the case of a map for a story, the information it contains should relate directly to the story and (I'll hate saying this) everything else should be discarded.

eg, if your women reference a location or a feature (mountain, river, etc) by a 'pet' name, then use the pet name. Or even forego names completely - asterisk a location and label it 'where X did Y' ... in a teasing manner, of course: you don't want the map giving away the storyline.
Revenant
Posted: Friday, May 6, 2011 3:04 PM
Rik, "while part of me wails at the thought of geographical inaccuracy"... As I begin to set up a map for myself, could you possibly explain some of the potential geographical inaccuracies that people commonly make? Or things to take into account when people are setting up their maps that would be silly geographical decisions?
Rik Roots
Posted: Friday, May 6, 2011 3:10 PM
Joined: 5/2/2011
Posts: 14


@Revenant - the biggest mistake I've seen in maps is trying to make rivers run uphill. Unless you've got some science fiction handwavium going on, or a touch of natural magic, rivers tend to move away from mountains, not across them.

As to how to start a map - I'd always suggest starting with the mountains and working down. Looking at the work of people who are really good at making maps (like the folks over at the Cartographer's Guild) or, even better, spending some time looking at how mountains, rivers and coastlines fit together on Google Earth is always a pleasure and never time wasted.
Revenant
Posted: Friday, May 6, 2011 3:45 PM
Thanks Rik. It kind of intrigues me to have a single river that might just run uphill, as if even the water seeks the goodness of those that live on that mountain... But that's very helpful as I try to figure out the specifics of my map.
Samuel Tyree
Posted: Sunday, May 8, 2011 4:28 AM
Joined: 5/3/2011
Posts: 4


I like to have maps if the geography is going to play an important role in the story. In non-fiction books, especially military tactical books, maps are necessary to tell the story because of the large number of units and actions and such. If I was to write an epic novel, I would definitely want a map. I also think a map is necessary if you modify our contemporary geography, such as in Sterling Lanier's book "Hiero's Journey", a post-apocolyptic book, for those who haven't read it. A nicely produced map adds to the story and if I really like the world the author creates, such as Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age world in his Conan stories, I like a map to help "explore" it further.


Rik Roots
Posted: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 9:03 PM
Joined: 5/2/2011
Posts: 14


Another type of map that needs to me mentioned, I think, is the town/city map. I tend to have greater problems following the 'where' of a story's actions when the action takes place in a built up area (or even a large building like a castle) and having the map can help me locate myself as the action unfolds - it means I might have to read a chapter 2 or 3 times before I'm fully satisfied that I understand what's happened, but I don't mind that.

Against my need for a comfort blanket, Terry Pratchett wrote a number of Ankh-Morpork books without bothering with a map and I managed to cope with the storytelling. But then he's a damn fine storyteller.
Rik Roots
Posted: Monday, May 16, 2011 10:22 AM
Joined: 5/2/2011
Posts: 14


I've just come across a wonderful (and extensive) blog post by Nicholas Tam on the ins-and-outs of reading fantasy maps. Well worth a read!
http://www.nicholastam.ca/2011/04/18/here-be-cartographers-reading-the-fantasy-map/
Joe Selby
Posted: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 5:07 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 30


I have zero artistic skill when it comes to drawing, but I find I need maps to maintain the accuracy of my story, whether it's a national map or a city map. So I create a text file and place the names of relevant areas (rivers, districts, what have you) in relation to one another. That way I know direction and distance and if ever I work with a cartographer, can say, here is what's there and where it goes. Make it not suck.
EvMaroon
Posted: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 11:03 PM
Joined: 3/11/2011
Posts: 2


I love maps! I draw maps, diagrams of the action flow, building design, any visual aid I can get my hand on. I was somewhere in the midst of the fourth or fifth revision of one novel when I realized that the hillside kept shifting, so I took time to draw everything out. It may look like chicken scratch to anyone else, but I know which squiggles are the trees, and which the river, etc.

I think some of my interest and need for maps comes from a book I had as a kid, and which is still in print: The Dictionary of Imaginary Places. It was great for giving me a whole new understanding of my favorite fantasy books.

Also, I wrote about how I use diagrams in writing some time back:
http://wp.me/pij01-mc
Colleen Lindsay
Posted: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 11:21 PM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 356


I confess that I skipped right over the myriad maps of Westeros in the Song of Ice and Fire series. One reason is that I read them this last time (my third!) on a Sony Reader and static eBooks don't play well with images yet.

But when I was a kid, I scrutinized the maps of Middle Earth. I was obsessed with how close the Shire was to Mordor. (Yeah, I was a weird kid.)

Cheers!

Colleen
Mahesh Raj Mohan
Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2011 1:00 AM
Joined: 2/28/2011
Posts: 60


I usually study a map after I've gotten into the book. Usually in the beginning, it's too overwhelming. Like with with A Song of Ice and Fire series, I was well into it before I was like, "oh cool *that's* where the Fingers are!" Same with Rothfuss or Robert Jordan (back when I read Jordan avidly).


Joe Selby
Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2011 4:05 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 30


I had a Middle Earth video game made for the Apple II GS (it was horrible) that came with a fold-out map of Middle Earth. Let me tell how much use that map got. I was using it for role playing adventures through college! I lost it during one of my many moves, else I would still have it to this day. Frankly, the thing I like most about Tolkien's work is the world of Middle Earth itself.

(Likewise, I like Howard's hand sketching of the Hyborian Age drawn over a map of Europe and Africa that was reprinted in the first Conan omnibus. It's awesome to see the thought processes involved in the development of a beloved setting.)

Incidentally, if anyone saw the painted maps of Westeros in the first role playing game publication, they were done by a friend of mine, Keith Curtis. He takes freelance projects if you're looking for someone to help you with your maps: http://www.kacurtis.com/
stephmcgee
Posted: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 3:24 AM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245


I wish I were a better artist. Maybe then my drafts of maps would actually look similar to each other. If my epic fantasy were ever to be published I'd be almost embarrassed to show the map artist my renderings. (Though I know he'd need them, maybe, in order to get the geography right at the very least.)

I think it might be one reason I'm reluctant to world-build another series I've got bouncing around in my head. Drawing the maps and laying out all that geography intimidates me now for some reason. Maybe I've written too much contemporary.
Rachel Russell
Posted: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 3:52 PM
Joined: 4/29/2011
Posts: 27


The hardest part I always have with drawing my maps is deciding how the continent is shaped.

It SEEMS like it'd be easy to just draw a random shape for your continent, but how you shape the continent determines how EVERYTHING else is placed. Not to mention I always worry I'll somehow subconsciously draw one of our real world's continents, and not even realize it until someone points out that I just drew Africa. Then I'd feel like a real twit.
Marshall R Maresca
Posted: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 12:19 AM
Joined: 3/7/2011
Posts: 56


There are some programs & websites out there that will generate random maps to use as a starting point.
stephmcgee
Posted: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 4:28 AM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245


Really, Marshall? You should add those to the online resources section of the forums here. I'd totally check them out.
Nefasti
Posted: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 1:33 PM
Joined: 5/5/2011
Posts: 24


Wow, there are some amazing maps here.

I didn't see this upthread, but it needs to be shared with anyone who loves maps. Jasper Fforde's map of Fiction Island: http://www.jasperfforde.com/more/tn6map.html

Chock full of awesome.
Carla Luna Cullen
Posted: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 10:27 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 8


I love maps! I use them a lot for my writing, partly just to orient myself when I'm plotting out travels, sea voyages, etc. I used to hand-draw them, but they never looked that good. Now I use Auto Realm, which is a free program used by role-playing gamers, like Dungeons and Dragons, for making maps. It has a lot of cool icons for geography, cities. etc.
stephmcgee
Posted: Sunday, May 29, 2011 12:29 AM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245


Because I couldn't figure out if Auto Realm was Mac compatible, I've just spent my entire day creating maps in Illustrator. Love layers. Anywhoo.

Maps are absolutely essential when I'm writing traditional or high fantasy. And these ones will prove invaluable as all other maps have.
KatSheridanKupanoff
Posted: Sunday, May 29, 2011 10:14 PM
Joined: 3/10/2011
Posts: 12


Interesting! I'm map-neutral, I suppose. It was helpful as I read LOTR when I was in high school, but it's not necessarily a deal breaker for me. In some cases, I almost cringe when I see maps, because I automatically think it's there because I'm going to have to refer to it from time to time in order to understand my surroundings, and to be honest, I'm not one for flipping back and forth between pages just to have an understanding of where the characters are. But in most cases, I usually just glance at it, get the gist of it, then move on to the story. I find most writers are able to include enough info in their story without me needing to go back to a map for clarification.

What a neat question! Cool to see how many map advocates there are on here!
B Harrison
Posted: Sunday, July 17, 2011 5:13 PM
Joined: 7/17/2011
Posts: 3


For my first novella "The Last Day To Remember" I created a map and thought it was kick ass.
But then I realized that I was relying to heavily on the map and not my ability to tell the story. If I was creative enough I wouldn't have to rely on physical visuals but ability to create the mental visual. So like others I cringe when I see a map, as if the writer isn't creative enough to tell the story...I'd rather not read something as if I'm playing some Zelda video game.
stephmcgee
Posted: Thursday, July 21, 2011 1:51 AM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245


I'm falling more and more in love with maps with each passing day. I keep creating floor plans and maps of cities, just so I know the orientation and can use that to a) orient my readers and b) keep continuity issues to a minimum as I write the story and hopefully (eventually) write the second and third books in the trilogy.

None of these maps will ever be printed (and I should probably put more detail into them anyway just to help myself), but they're totally beneficial for my writing at the moment.
Marshall R Maresca
Posted: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 4:01 AM
Joined: 3/7/2011
Posts: 56


I love doing my maps. On two recent blog posts I shared the map of the city my stories take place in, and the country.

http://blog.mrmaresca.com/2011/07/late-thursday-post-is-late.html
http://blog.mrmaresca.com/2011/07/another-map-for-another-busy-day.html
Colleen Lindsay
Posted: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 9:41 AM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 356


Bumping up for the new members to see.

Elizabeth Moon
Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2012 7:49 PM
Joined: 6/14/2012
Posts: 195


I like to draw maps (my mother drew maps professionally--not fictional ones but real ones so I grew up fascinated by them.)   But the reason I started drawing maps for my stories is that I got mixed up if I didn't.   For instance, I had a city that hopped rivers...every time an army approached it, the city was "across the river."  Finally realized that this meant the city hopped the river (and it wasn't that kind of fantasy) so drew a map and gave the city a firm foundation.  

I enjoy drawing semi-antique maps...hand drawing everything, hand-shading the terrain, etc.  I've always admired earlier mapmakers' skills.



stephmcgee
Posted: Friday, June 22, 2012 12:42 AM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245


Jealous. I can't draw a straight line with a ruler if I try. Let alone try to hand draw a map that will have any semblance of comprehensibility. I do much better manipulating the lines on the computer (and if I need to duplicate the outlines I can just copy and paste). 
Alexander Hollins
Posted: Monday, June 25, 2012 6:50 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 416


steph, the beauty of a map is, there shouldnt really BE straight lines!

stephmcgee
Posted: Monday, June 25, 2012 8:41 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245


This is true. My maps still don't look very good, but I do better if I draw them on the computer.
 

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